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TV Advertising Dies A Slow But Unsurprisingly Steady Death

By   /  March 20, 2015  /  No Comments


According to an article from Variety the upfronts may not be long for this world.

Upfronts are the time which advertisers decide how they’re going to spend about $10 billion in advertising during primetime TV, which airs between 8 and 11 p.m. Although there’s no question that advertisers will continue to sink enormous amount of money into TV advertising, the Internet is giving primetime TV a death by a thousand papercuts; in fact, Variety believes the upfronts may not even be a thing next year.

People aren’t watching as much TV

Part of the problem is that people aren’t watching as much TV, and when they are, it’s not in real-time, and it’s not even necessarily on one of the major networks. Per eMarketer, people in 2014 watched TV for 4 hours 28 minutes a day but used digital media for 5 hours 46 minutes daily.


Even if people are watching primetime TV offerings, they are frequently not in front of a TV but watching from a computer, tablet or mobile phone. Further, must see TV is no longer exclusive to the big four networks; subscription and cable TV channels are dominating. In fact, the shows I see popping up most on my Twitter feed are The Walking Dead (AMC) and the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix). This is reflected in a drop in viewership, as pointed out by Variety:

For the first nine weeks of 2015, total live-plus-same-day ratings were down 10.7% across broadcast and cable, according to Cowen & Co, analyst Doug Creutz, while viewership by people in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 audience fell 13.3%.

Targeting is guess work at best

The other issue is that although many advertisers, especially those with the type of money to throw at primtime TV ads, have the most experience with TV and print ads, the specific targeting offered by the Internet is a very, very attractive thing. Basically, advertising on TV is a random grab bag of people, with demographic data being very general and mostly focused on things like age and gender.

In an effort to provide advertisers with something akin to what they can get through social media advertising, which tends to be based on user preferences and purchase behaviors, several major players, including 21st Century Fox and Viacom, have started bundling their advertising and offering time based on demographic groups. This provides a bit more targeting, since there are certain indicators such as age, income and gender associated with many TV shows, but it still pales in comparison to what Twitter or Facebook can offer.

Tracking is even worse

Picture an Internet marketing campaign with the worst tracking ever. One where you’ve got essentially no data about whether a single purchase was made. That is essentially TV tracking. Unless a consumer says, “I bought this because I saw your ad on TV,” there is no way of knowing with confidence if TV ads drove a sale.

Some argue that there are connections that can be made based on sales numbers before and after a TV ad campaign, but there are a number of holes in that theory, even beyond the fact that correlation does not equal causation. Most advertisers do not solely advertise on TV, so people could be rushing out to buy something based on a magazine, TV, radio or Internet ad.

Additionally, many types of purchases see increases during certain times of the year. For example, microwave purchases spike just before the school year begins because college kids need to feed themselves. There’s also the fact that new products tend to get eye-catching displays or placed on end caps, so figuring out what caused a purchase in the morass of information provided is a guesstimation at best.

Image Credit: James Good

About the author

I'm an avid reader of stuff and devour information of all kind. For the past four years, I've been pursuing my passion for writing. When I'm not reading or writing, you'll find me knitting. Follow me on twitter: @MarilynMaupinTS

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